Official Inquiry Found DWP Benefits Of Man Who Starved To Death

The DWP Need To Learn Lessons

The DWP Got It Wrong When They Stopped Errol Graham Benefits Who Later Died

The Tragic Case of Errol Graham: A Failure of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Lessons the DWP need to learn.


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under scrutiny for its handling of the case of Errol Graham, a disabled man who tragically starved to death after his benefits were stopped.

An updated safeguarding review has now revealed that the DWP was wrong to halt his benefits, highlighting a series of failures in the system. This marks the first time an official inquiry has explicitly acknowledged the DWP’s mistake in stopping the benefits of a vulnerable individual.

Errol Graham’s harrowing story sheds light on the dire consequences of the DWP’s actions. In October 2017, his employment and support allowance (ESA) was terminated after he failed to attend a work capability assessment (WCA).

This led to the suspension of his housing benefit and subsequently, his inability to pay rent. Tragically, in June of the following year, bailiffs discovered his emaciated body when they arrived to evict him.

A coroner later confirmed that Errol Graham had starved to death, weighing a mere four-and-a-half stone at the age of 57.

However, what is particularly disturbing is that three years prior to his work capability assessment, another DWP assessment had revealed his struggle with “active suicidal thoughts,” “very low mood,” and auditory hallucinations.

He had also expressed difficulty in coping with unexpected changes, which left him feeling anxious and panicked in new situations.

When the Nottingham City Safeguarding Adults Board initiated a review into the circumstances surrounding Errol Graham’s death, the DWP failed to disclose the documents from his 2014 assessment.

Despite being specifically requested to provide “information of relevance” to his death, the DWP only shared earlier reports, hiding crucial information that could have shed light on Errol Graham’s vulnerability.

This omission led the review’s author, Sylvia Manson, to offer only mild criticism of the DWP’s actions, concluding that the department was “unaware of Errol’s significant risk factors when acutely unwell.”

However, when (DNS) obtained permission from Errol Graham’s family to share the 2014 documents with the Nottingham safeguarding team, the author of the review reevaluated her initial conclusions.

Manson subsequently produced a new, much more critical “addendum” to the report, which highlights the DWP’s failure to consider the information from the 2014 assessment.

According to her updated findings, the DWP should have recognized Errol Graham’s depression and its potential impact on his ability to engage with a work capability assessment.

This failure to take into account his mental health history and exercise discretionary criteria to gather further information from other agencies represents a significant oversight on the part of the DWP.

Errol Graham’s daughter-in-law, Alison Burton, has been at the forefront of the fight for justice since his tragic death.

She has welcomed the addendum to the safeguarding review, emphasizing that the documents from his 2014 assessment should have led the DWP to grant him “good cause” for missing the assessment, which would have prevented the termination of his benefits.

Burton expressed her frustration with the DWP’s deceitful behaviour throughout the investigation process, highlighting the department’s failure to provide the 2014 documents until shortly before a judicial review hearing in January 2021.

This delay rendered the documents largely ineffective in influencing the outcome of the investigation.

Burton questions the DWP’s commitment to improving its services and protecting claimants, as the department claims.

She argues that their deceptive actions indicate a lack of genuine interest in making meaningful changes. Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident.

The DWP has a history of misleading public bodies, such as coroners, judges, and independent reviewers, concerning the links between its policies and the deaths of disabled individuals claiming benefits.

In response to the addendum to the safeguarding review, the DWP refused to comment on whether it agreed with the revised conclusions.

Additionally, the department declined to apologize for withholding the 2014 report from the review and for the actions that ultimately led to Errol Graham’s death. Instead, a DWP spokesperson offered condolences to the family, acknowledging the tragedy of the case.

The Nottingham City Safeguarding Adults Board also initially refused to comment on the DWP’s attempt to conceal information. Furthermore, it attempted to argue that the “original findings and recommendations” of the review remained unchanged.

However, when confronted with the fact that the review’s author had indeed altered the report to explicitly state that the DWP was wrong to stop Errol Graham’s benefits, the board amended its statement. The chair of the board, Lesley Hutchinson, expressed condolences to the family and emphasized a commitment to implementing the original recommendations.